the one about the community...
August 13, 2018, 9:19 AM

Sermon from August 12, 2018

Text: Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2

News Article mentioned in sermon.

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ, will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, as many of y’all know, the cultural and political climate of our world today is pretty… tense. Long standing feuds. Simmering anger. Violent rhetoric. And, so much more.

I think about how our world and the people around us – both physically and (mostly) on social media – act and I can’t help, but hear the words this morning to the church at Ephesus. In this letter, we are confronted with a young church that is experiencing growing pains. Pains that arise when new members are welcomed into an established group.

Throughout Ephesians, there is an emphasis on working together, possessing differing gifts, but realizing that all gifts are used towards proclaiming God. There is also encouragement – strong encouragement – to live life a new way because of what God has done for us in Christ our Lord. Turning away from that life that pulls us away from God.

A lot of change is going on in the church at Ephesus, and the writer has some advice which I think speaks to and can lead us today.

We are encouraged to speak truth to our neighbors. Which is a great thing. When you see someone spreading falsehoods, or living in such away that is detrimental to themselves and others we are encouraged to speak truth. Speak about the truth that is in Christ our Lord. That truth that all are welcome and loved. That God is indeed present here. That you and others are important. That we live our life for others over ourselves. That we should turn away from that which pulls us from the life God intends for us and has gifted to us.

But, there’s a catch – an important and pivotal catch. The author – attributed to be Paul, but most scholars don’t believe was actually Paul himself – writes that we speak truth to our neighbors because we are members of one another.

How often do we see folks today speak ‘truth’ because they want to ‘impress’ upon others? To show them how terrible they are. To watch them ‘suffer.’ To just be a jerk? Where ‘truth’ is shared to put people in their place. That is not what is written here, that is not how we are encouraged to live this life of faith. Instead we offer to speak the truth of God BECAUSE we are members of one another. We belong to the same God, the same kingdom, the same love.

We are together. Imagine what this world could be like that as we speak to those who utter such disparaging words against groups of people around us and the world, that instead of casting more words to beat down folks, they instead approached those opportunities out of love for the person before them?

I hear you speaking and saying these things about – this group – that I know are not true. I want to share with you this truth I know and love because it is from God. I want to speak this truth to you, because I care for you and my life is wrapped up in yours.

The writer than moves on to another point that I think is highly important as well. Be angry.

Do it. Be angry. Anger isn’t bad. Lots of folks have been angry in scripture. Anger moves us to act. Anger at times is the impetus to do something for others. How many times have you heard a pastor say it is OK to be angry. I like to say that when people begin quoting the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” That an appropriate answer (for Jesus) was turning over tables in the temple because he was angry.

Make your voice heard. Walk in the streets. Share God’s truth to love and welcome.

Yet, as you’re angry – don’t sin. Don’t disparage. Don’t lie. Don’t hurt. Don’t steal. In your anger, don’t make room for sin to worm its way in that might change your anger into something far more destructive and unhelpful.

The author continues on with something that I think can upset everyone. Thieves. What to do with them? They’ve hurt, they’ve violated, they’ve broken bonds of trust that we have with one another.

Many want to see thieves ‘dealt with’ in harsh manners and put outside the community of God. And the temptation to do that is very, very strong. When one has wronged you, the first thing you want to happen to them is that they ‘pay’ for what they’ve done. However, this text from Ephesians takes an interesting turn.

Here, of course, thieves are asked to first – stop stealing. Seriously. Stop.

And then to use their hands for the betterment of those around them. To labor and work honestly so that they can share with those who are in need. To me, that sounds a lot like rehabilitation. Continue to speak truth because we are members of one another, be angry, yet don’t sin. Help those who have hurt us and hurt you work in ways to care for those in need around them and around the community.

Let them work so that they too might have something to share with those in need. That’s profound stuff!

Further on we read that the author of this letter encourages the community to care and love one another. To build one another up, to show value in those around you even the ones whom you disagree with and don’t know. Forgive one another. Encourage one another. Know that you are members of one another.

Be imitators of God.

Now, I’ll be honest, even as your pastor I fail so much in what this author calls us to. I fail so often in how Jesus calls us to live life for and with others. It is difficult.

It is difficult to live into the life that God has for us because there is so much hurt and anger in the world and around us. There is such a great temptation to view the one who is different from us, who hurts us, who goes against what God has called us and the world into as some sort of ‘other.’ That because they are ‘like that’ we don’t need to show love towards them.

They may be near me, but they aren’t my ‘neighbors.’

Yet, we follow God; we are guided by the Holy Spirit that leads in love. That does care for all of us – all of us. The one that calls us to the cross and to live a life different than the world around us. To live a life seeing God present in each and every person before us.

Sure, there will be moments that anger us, that we need to speak truth – God’s truth and love – those before us. But, we do so with love and care.

And sometimes its hard. Really hard. The hardest thing we could ever think to do. Sometimes it seems ridiculous to act that way because of what others have done and continue to do.

Yet, we continue to speak truth to love because of who they are and who we are. We continue to speak truth because our anger moves us to act in love for those around us. So that they and all might know that it doesn’t have to be this way and that God calls us to something else.

One year ago, was the tragedy in Charlottesville, VA. That day where a woman was killed because of anger and hatred. That day where people who avow racist views descended upon that historic city.

A year ago, is when a man named Ken Parker – a former member of the KKK and avowed Nazi began a life of change. He went to Charlottesville to stir trouble. He, along with his friends, wanted to start a race war. Yet, while there he met a woman – who is Muslim – who cared for his well-being because he might be going through a heat stroke. He noted in an article I read this weak that he recalled Deeyah Khan’s kindness in his moment of weakness. He began to question why he was hating ‘these people.’

It was there that he began to see a change in his life. He and his fiancé eventually met an African-American pastor who in love and truth answered his questions. Who shared with them the gospel because he saw God within them too.

Mr. Parker now speaks to current members of the KKK and the neo-Nazi groups and talks about a ‘different way to be.’ A way that is led by love and not hate.

The gospel shared in truth and love is powerful. Powerful enough to change even the most hateful.

And when we cannot live into this life as faithfully as we’d hope to? Then what? Well, Jesus is still there. Working on you, walking with you, forgiving you, loving you, reaching out to you, reminding you of your own salvation that is already complete so that you can see God present in the face of the one before you.

It isn’t easy. It is far from easy. But, we are called to speak truth because we belong together. We are called to live out this love and truth – even when moved by anger. To be caring in our words and actions towards others so that they too might know that they are loved, that those ‘others’ are loved, that the world is loved by God.


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